Every year, the entire European games industry gathers for it's annual trade show, which is called ECTS. It's a great place to see all the games and hardware you'll be playing with in the next year or two, and is also a place to meet publishers, developers, and every other company with a hand in the games industry. A hugely commercial event, all the huge multinationals try to out-do each other with the size and extravagance of their stand.
It's also trade only, which means the public aren't admitted, so there's no little kids wandering around. So what innovations in gaming were there on show this year? Read on...
Nintendo's stand was absolutely massive, looking more like an office block than a stand, and was on two floors. Going up the flight of stairs to the top floor, they were showcasing the Gameboy Advance, Nintendo's successor to the Gameboy Color. Featuring a 32-bit RISC processor from ARM, and a 16:9 ratio reflective TFT screen, it was received enthusiastically by practically everyone. It's sure to be a massive success when it's released in late 2001.
Several games were being shown, in various stages of completion, but all very playable even at this early stage. Mario Kart Advance (temporary name) is a scaled-down version of Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo. With the playability fully intact, and a four player link-up mode with four Gameboy Advance consoles, it played almost exactly like it's SNES counterpart, and had some very impressive transparency effects on some of the tracks.
Konami All-Stars Racing (also a temporary name) plays very similar to Mario Kart Advance, but with strange Japanese characters. This one is unlikely to see a European release. Nintendo were also showing several upcoming N64 releases, including Zelda: Majora's Mask, and Mario Party 2, a strange board game for up to four players which includes many mini-games which must be completed by one or more of the players to advance around the board. Starring the familiar Mario characters, this is going to be one for younger audiences.
Nintendo were also showing Rare's Banjo Tooie (the sequal to 1999s Banjo Kazoie) and Conker's Bad Fur Day, which looks to be hilarious.
Of course, Sony were there in force as well. The Playstation 2 hype machine continues in preparation for it's launch later on this year. Being many times faster than it's closest rival, the Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2 allows you to watch DVDs and listen to music CDs as well as play games. Although it comes with no modem for on-line play, Sony promise that one will be available soon. Games on display included Ready to Rumble 2, and Tekken Tag Team, which both looked very impressive and ran incredibly smoothly. Sony were also showing off their new remodelled Playstation 1. Dubbed the PSOne, the new more rounded console is around half the size of the original 1995 machine, and boasts a reduced price tag to match, although it remains to be seen whether this effort will revive the ageing console.